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Ballet star says he is being hounded out of Russia's Bolshoi

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A top ballet dancer with Russia's Bolshoi Theatre says he is being hounded out over disputes with the management after an acid attack that nearly blinded its artistic director and exposed bitter rivalries over roles, power and pay.

Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who has been told he must leave at the end of the month, had been at odds with Bolshoi director Anatoly Iksanov even before the January 17 attack that stunned Russians with its brutality and left Sergei Filin with severe burns to his face and eyes.

But their relationship soured sharply after Iksanov suggested that 39-year-old Tsiskaridze might have played a role inciting the attack and the Georgian-born dancer said that the manager was conducting a witch hunt against him.

Tsiskaridze, who has been at the Bolshoi since 1992 as principal dancer and teacher, has denied he had anything to do with the attack on Filin.

Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova on Sunday said that Tsiskaridze has been told that his contract will not be renewed when it expires at the end of June, but she refused to give the reason for the decision.

"This is hounding of the sole and most famous artist of the Bolshoi Theatre," Tsiskaridze told Reuters in a text message.

The Bolshoi, perhaps Russia's best-known cultural symbol, filed two reprimands against Tsiskaridze for giving unauthorized interviews after the attack on Filin.

Tsiskaridze appealed and a Moscow court annulled one of the reprimands. Multiple reprimands can be ground for dismissal under Russian law.

A Tsiskaridze protégé at the Bolshoi, soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko, and two alleged accomplices were charged over the attack and are in jail awaiting trial. They face up to 12 years in prison if convicted. The trial date has yet to be set.

Filin, who has been receiving medical treatment in Germany since the attack, has vowed to return to work as soon as possible.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by David Goodman)

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